Thursday, July 23, 2009

Searching For Middle Ground, Finding None

What do ladies' nights and Barack Obama have in common?

Not much, actually. Still, there is a moral to the story of ladies' nights promotions (free admission and/or discounted drinks for women), which the State Division on Civil Rights ruled in 2004 violated New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination. Minority Leader of the New Jersey Senate, Tom Kean Jr., son of the popular former governor and co-chairman of the vastly overrated 9/11 commission, understandably has introduced legislation to overturn the ban.

Instead of sensibly emphasizing, however, that an unenforced rule is at best no better than no rule, or demonstrating political courage by calling for repealing the law which was violated by ladies' nights, Kean claims

As long as New Jersey has an overbearing and meddlesome government that refuses to cut red tape and end this foolishness, we will keep our reputation as a terrible place to do business."

New Jersey decides, because of ideology, limited resources, or otherwise, to pull back on regulation and a prominent Repub accuses it of "an overbearing and meddlesome government."

This guy doesn't understand what is happening here- or chooses to frame it in the context of the classic, pro-business Repub talking point. How would he have reacted if the state actually believed in regulatory enforcement? Probably the same way.

And so it is with national Republicans in their response to the agenda of President Obama. The President could have nationalized the banks, or a bank, to assure American businesses and consumers credit, the lack of which has contributed enormously to the economic crisis. Even GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, of the staunchly Republican and conservative South Carolina, conceded on February 15

This idea of nationalizing banks is not comfortable, but I think we have gotten so many toxic assets spread throughout the banking and financial community throughout the world, that we're going to have to do something that no one ever envisioned a year ago -- something no one likes.

But Barack Obama has not.

The President could have proposed, as a bargaining tool, to acquire leverage in health care negotiations, a single-payer health care system, which

would make possible a set of mechanisms, including public budgeting and investment planning, that would allow us to address the real sources of cost increases and allow us to rationalize our health care investments. The drivers of high cost such as administrative waste, deterioration of our primary care infrastructure, excessive prices, and use of non-beneficial or detrimental high-tech services and products could all be addressed within such a rationalized system.

But Barack Obama has not.

Senator Byron Dorgan (D.-N.D.) wrote of the recently passed Waxman-Markey climate and clean energy bill (though for a critique of Dorgan's criticism, click here:

I support capping carbon emissions. But it has to be done the right way, with targets and timelines that allow us to accomplish our goals without driving the cost of energy for homeowners and businesses out of sight. The cap-and-trade plan does not meet that test for me.

I know the Wall Street crowd can't wait to sink their teeth into a new trillion-dollar trading market in which hedge funds and investment banks would trade and speculate on carbon credits and securities. In no time they'll create derivatives, swaps and more in that new market. In fact, most of the investment banks have already created carbon trading departments. They are ready to go. I'm not
.

The President could be actively supporting the efforts of those U.S. Representatives who wanted to add to the bill a provision which would have imposed "stricter trading limits and reporting requirements so that no single operator could assume more risk than it could handle or capture so much of the market that it distorted prices."

But Barack Obama has not.

And the reaction of national Republicans? Similar to that of Tom Kean in New Jersey. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee charging of the bailout/rescue package "Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff;" South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint calling Obama "the world's best salesman of Socialism;" prominent conservative writer and blogger Michelle Malkin sarcastically claiming of Obama's policies "We didn’t start the fire, therefore dumping more gasoline on it is not socialism."

Americans elected a president whose strategy is to compromise, cajole, and negotiate, a chief executive who believes half a loaf is better than none, if not better than a full loaf itself. And the right wing, confronted by a neo-liberal, pro-corporate president, accuses him of being socialist or promoting socialist policies. It would be astonishing, if they actually were sincere.

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